For the Spirit's players and coaches, this weekend will be punctuated by renewing old acquaintances.
It will start with the coaches in tonight's game -- the Spirit's Dave MacWilliams against the Buffalo Blizzard's Jim May. They played together for the old Blast during the 1984-85 season.
"This is the first time we've faced each other, so it'll be intense," MacWilliams said. "Jim's an intense guy, the kind of goalie who threw his body in front of things and got kicked and bruised a lot."
In tomorrow night's game against the Dayton Dynamo, the field will be peppered with players who used to wear their opponents' jerseys.
In a late September trade, the Spirit sent Rob Ukrop and Clark Brisson to Dayton for Kevin Sloan and goalie Joe Mallia. Early this month, the Spirit purchased Brad Smith from Dayton.
"Even though I played only two months there last season, I developed some nice relationships, so you always want to prove yourself to friends and former teammates," Mallia said. "It's personal pride, bragging rights."
Mallia was signed by Dayton last season because No. 1 goalie Carlos Pena had a separated shoulder. Ironically, Smith played with Pena not only with the Dynamo but in their high school days in Culver City, Calif.
"Those guys were and are my friends," Smith said. "But we're all out to win. I want to win against my old club even more than others, for bragging rights."
After two years with the Dynamo, Smith said he "left with a handshake," although some friction had developed between him and coach Terry Nicholl.
"He and I agreed it would be best if I had a new coach," said Smith, who has 10 points in four Spirit games. "I also played under him for two years previously in Wichita. We weren't always seeing eye to eye on things like tactical issues."
Early returns on the four-player trade favor the Spirit.
Sloan is the No. 3 scorer in the National Professional Soccer League with 40 points in seven games and Mallia has a 3-1 record in four starts in relief of Cris Vaccaro. Ukrop, in his second NPSL season, has 13 points in seven games and Brisson, tied for third among Spirit scorers last season, hasn't played since pulling a hamstring in the opener.
Sloan, who spent the past two seasons with Dayton, is looking forward to the confrontation "with excitement," intent on "making a statement." A clutch of goals would suffice.
"It might be a little awkward," he said. "After my first shift, I just hope I don't run off onto the Dayton bench."
* MacWilliams missed practice yesterday after complaining of dizziness and headaches and was taken by ambulance to Union Memorial Hospital for tests. All tests were negative and he was discharged at 4:15 p.m. MacWilliams plans to coach the team tonight.
Opponent: Buffalo Blizzard
Site: Baltimore Arena
TV/Radio: ESPN2/WWLG (1360 AM), WAMD (970 AM)
Tickets: Many available
COutlook: This is the teams' first meeting of the season. The Spirit won last season's series, 4-2. The Blizzard (2-3) has split two games since Jim May replaced Peter Skouras as coach. Buffalo's points leaders are Paul Dougherty (31), Gino DiFlorio (25) and Randy Pikuzinski (16). They combined for 24 points in last week's victory over the Detroit Rockers, but were held to six in the following night's loss to the Wichita Wings. The Spirit's scoring leaders are Kevin Sloan (40), Jon Parry (21) and Tim Wittman (21). Jamie Christie (hamstring) is out for the Spirit and Tarik Walker (ankle), Parry (ankle) and Cris Vaccaro (hamstring) are questionable.